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Health Care Power of Attorney: When You’re the Decision Maker

Posted on : April 23, 2018, By:  George Dillon

Serving as someone’s representative can be pretty nerve-wracking, especially when life or death decisions are involved. Before agreement to be a loved one’s agent, make sure you know what’s involved when you’re the decision maker.

First, Some General Information about Health Care Powers of Attorney.

In Virginia, a health care power of attorney is also called an advance directive. According to Virginia law:

“Advance directive” means (i) a witnessed written document, voluntarily executed by the declarant in accordance with the requirements of § 54.1-2983 or (ii) a witnessed oral statement, made by the declarant subsequent to the time he is diagnosed as suffering from a terminal condition and in accordance with the provisions of § 54.1-2983.

Anyone over the age of 18 with the capacity of making informed decisions can make a health care directive. A person’s written directive may:

  • State preferences regarding health care treatments;
  • Specify anatomical gifts; and
  • Name an agent to make decisions if necessary.

That’s where you come in, if you’re the agent.

As Agent, What’s Your Authority?

The person who signed the directive is called the declarant. If you’ve agreed to be declarant’s agent, your duties might include:

  • Making health care decisions that have been specified in the directive;
  • Honoring anatomical gift preferences; and
  • Restricting visitation to the declarant, but only if the directive grants that authority.

As agent, you are expected to make a good faith effort to:

  • Understand the risks and benefits of treatments and alternative treatments;
  • Make decisions based on declarant’s religious beliefs and values;
  • Make decisions that are in the declarant’s best interests.

When you agree to serve as agent, talk to the declarant about their beliefs and values.

Still Have Questions About Health Care Directives?

Talking to an experience estate planning attorney is the best way to learn more about serving as an agent or personal representative. It’s also a good time to make sure your estate planning is up to date.

Our attorneys have the skills and experience to help you develop an estate planning that meets your needs. Please call us at 757-962-4796 to set up an appointment or contact us online by using our convenient Contact Form. We assist clients in Virginia Beach, Newport News, and surrounding communities.

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